The new Lincoln Nautilus is more than just a handsome luxury SUV but it’s still not enough to make it a top choice.
That’s right, another luxury SUV. This is probably in part what goes through the minds of automotive designers, engineers, marketing and product planning at a given manufacturer when the news comes that a new SUV is coming down the pipeline.
There are only so many ways to describe versatility and capabilities – I’ve mentioned this before but I’m happy to be on this side of the fence when it comes to talking about cars. And about cars, there was a time there were only sedans and wagons on the road but I promise you that 40 years ago, there were fewer of them combined for sale than there are SUVs up for grabs today.
And so, the new Lincoln Nautilus. What’s up with it? How good is it? Is it worth considering over all the others? Let’s look into it.
The new 2019 Lincoln Nautilus is the new Lincoln MKX. In other words, it in an MKX with a new name, upgraded shell, revised interior bits with a dose of extra luxury. As I noted in my Lincoln Navigator review, Ford’s luxury car division is hard at work realigning its product portfolio.
Now that all its SUVs have been rebaptized, all that remains is to find out what the MKZ’s fate will be as we assume the Continental will be around for another little while.
The Nautilus adopts Lincoln’s latest design language which was introduced with said Continental a few years ago. This means the Lincoln signature grille gets to sit upfront and be the face of what is an attractive SUV. Ford’s done a great job reinventing Lincoln’s flair as it works on all its products – it is especially flattering on the midsize Nautilus and upcoming Aviator.
The same can be said for the cabin with possibly an exception or two. The dashboard is nicely laid out and functional however the flowing center stack does not blend as harmoniously with the overall newness of the vehicle. Fit and finish are beyond reproach as is the selection of materials.
The Nautilus has a huge job to do. Although the MKC/Corsair has also been given an important once-over, it has proven not to be the saviour or volume leader it was intended to be. This job will fall back on the midsize Nautilus.
How good is it?
The base $48,950 Select trim Nautilus is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is standard however it will prove to be only adequate to get the heavy SUV up and going. The only real option the vehicle needs is the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 2.7-litre V6 engine. The catch is that it’s a $8,100 jump in pricing as you skip up to a Reserve version, but the highlights are 335-horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque with no penalty in fuel consumption. As far as I’m concerned, the 2.7 TT should be offered on the Select as an option.
With the EcoBoost doing its thing, the Nautilus is amusing, The power is excellent while the 8-speed automatic likes to play hard. It can also take it easy but half of the time, it loses its composure on a low-speed downshift.
Adaptive dampers and brake-biased torque vectoring are standard with the Nautilus. Both play an important role in the SUV’s overall refinement. Despite the presence of drive modes (which are complex to access) and torque vectoring, this Lincoln is anything but sporty. It is however immensely comfortable and quiet. Ride quality is cosseting in Normal drive mode and almost too sloppy and soft in Comfort. The opposite is true in Sport.
Is it worth considering over all the others?
Unlike some of its competitors, the Select is loaded with LED lights all around, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster display heated, 10-way heated leather covered power front seats and loads more. By comparison, to get similar equipment in an Audi Q5, you’ll need to spend upwards of $53,000.
From a value perspective, the Nautilus is actually quite good. It has more to offer than the Cadillac XT5 for nearly equal money even though the base XT5 is less expensive than the Lincoln.
With the EcoBoost engine, the $57,050 Reserve is opulent with included heated and ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch wheels and a 13-speaker Revel audio system. At this price, the Nautilus still works but the moment a few options are added, it loses its appeal.
Where it falls apart is when pricing rises over $60,000 as it begins to encroach upon the German options, namely the new Mercedes-Benz GLE. When priced out as my tester was, at over $71,000 (!) a BMW X5 comes into play. Then there’s also a new Porsche Macan S with a few options that lands on the radar. In both instances, the Lincoln cannot hope to compete.
More than likely, Lincoln will throw in a few incentives and rebates to keep the deal going however the Germans can be quite aggressive too.
As a luxury vehicle, the Nautilus ticks all the right boxes. The main issue remains brand recognition. Like Cadillac, countless false moves over the last few decades have severely damaged the image associated with Lincoln. No matter how good the product is, the trick is to keep the price down.